SHIROBAKO: Episode 11 – “The Little Key Frames Girl”

SHIROBAKO starts out with five friends in a high school animation club producing an animation to screen at their school cultural fair. Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa, and Midori swear that they’ll eventually reunite in Tokyo and make another anime together. The story then jumps ahead in time two-and-a-half years, where Aoi is working as a production assistant at Musashino Animation, a company that’s in the process of working on an anime titled, Exodus. Ema is also at Musashino Animation; she’s just getting her foot in the door as an animator. In Episode Two, we learn that Shizuka is a newbie voice actress at Akaoni Production.

The main focus of Episode 11 is on Aoi trying to find key frame animators for the remaining cuts in Episode 13 of Exodus. After talking with the animators from their own studio, she still has 27 more cuts to assign. As she starts looking outside of Musashino Animation, she’s primarily getting rejections for various reasons. With such a tight schedule and the fact that the next season’s shows are starting to get underway, it’s very believable that Aoi is receiving so many rejections as she’s trying to find other key animators to help out.

One of the key animators she tries to locate has transferred to a studio where she had tried interviewing to get a position before being hired by Musashino Animation. When she sees the company president, we see a flashback of her interview there and how it didn’t go well. We also see how her older sister encouraged her to track down smaller animation studios through the Internet. Now only did this make for a good character development moment for Aoi, it also shows that her indecisiveness about her direction in the field started back then and isn’t a new issue that has popped up.

After seeing this flashback, I thought it was interesting that Aoi is asked to help out with interviews for bringing in a new person to work with the production team at Musashino Animation. Knowing some of her background prior to this makes it interesting for the viewer to see Aoi going from being the one being interviewed to being one of the ones doing the interviewing. This ends up giving Aoi a flashback to her own interview at Musashino Animation, which I thought was a nice touch. This episode did a great job at providing some backstory for Aoi and how she ended up at Musashino Animation.

As Aoi struggles to find key frame animators, she has a dream sequence that makes her look like The Little Matchstick Girl, except she is now The Little Key Frames Girl. In the dream, she stumbles upon the most popular studio in the city and sees some famous anime characters (with blurred faces) getting work done. You usually see this blurring done to try to hide the true identity of other series’ characters, but this was probably especially important after the incident that went down with Idepon that temporarily forced Episode Six of SHIROBAKO to be pulled from streaming services until rights issues were worked out.

And if Aoi’s issues weren’t bad enough, Yano’s father is in the hospital. Yano is so distracted by this that the company president sends her home; but since the trains aren’t running that late, Takanashi is given the assignment to take her home in one of the studio’s vehicles. But with Yano gone, it creates even more issues for Episode 13 of Exodus. Aoi uses one final contact she hasn’t used yet, and this leads her to an interesting potential person to reach out to. Unfortunately, this idea appeared to have been given to Aoi as a joke, but she’s so desperate she’s taking this lead, anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens with this lead in Episode 13. As a “spoiler,” I will say that the lead she was given is someone who’s supposed to be Hideaki Anno; but in this series, his name is Kanno Mitsuaki, and he was the director of Neon Generation Avangaldon.

So there should be one more episode left of SHIROBAKO, and it’s getting down to the wire for Episode 13 of Exodus; according to the final shot of the episode, there’s only 12 days left until delivery. So the main question now is, “Can Episode 13 of Exodus be completed and delivered on time before the end of Episode 12 of SHIROBAKO?” I’m looking forward to seeing Episode 12 in order to find out how this series will be brought to its conclusion.

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